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A Massey University energy expert says proposed local government reforms would be a step backwards for sustainability.
Professor Ralph Sims, of the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, is alarmed at the Government consultation document, which states greenhouse gas emission reductions should not be the responsibility of local councils.
Professor Sims says cities and towns have a vital role to play in mitigating climate change and improving resilience. He says many are already leading the way to a clean energy future.
“There is no evidence that climate change policy can be successfully implemented only at the national level,” he says.
His research shows local governments are vital players in engaging their communities to take on renewable energy projects.
“Cities are the right places to start the transition towards a low-carbon economy and they can act more rapidly and are more inclusive than national authorities,” he says. “They are far better equipped to confront the issues of energy, transport and water use, as they relate to their citizens, in a timely manner.”
There are hundreds of examples of cities providing leadership in sustainability, Professor Sims says. “In Barcelona, the city decided every new building should have a solar water heater. Now, some years later, that has been taken up across Spain. In England in 2003, the Merton Council decided all new buildings were required to use 10 per cent renewable energy integrated into the building. That policy has been taken up across Great Britain.”
It is initiatives like these that could be lost here in New Zealand under this local government reform, Professor Sims says.
These views were endorsed at a recent workshop on sustainable cities in Wellington, when international and local experts voiced concern at the reform. The workshop included addresses from Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Massey University’s Dr Allanah Ryan and world leading researchers from Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy in Germany and Curtin University in Australia.
The event was organised by the Wuppertal Institute together with Massey University and Wellington City Council and sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Professor Sims is a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a senior analyst for the International Energy Agency.